Four things could derail your new Old Seven Mile Bridge visit
Tuesday was THE perfect day for a second try at finding parking for a new Old Seven Mile Bridge outing. Accuweather promised one of those rare and welcome rainy days. By 7 a.m., thunder boomers roamed freely and someone dumped 1986 Star-Trek-Saves-the-Whales amounts of water on the island.
Tuesday was the day before the opening of the annual Florida spiny lobster mini-season, which, for three days, draws thousands of folks whose personal revenue streams allow them to pay the equivalent of multiple thousands of dollars for six, three-plus-inch lobsters, each of which amounts to, say, a decent slurp and three chews before swallowing. Although the leading edge of the hordes was already floating, boating and driving into the Keys, they hadn’t made it west of the Marathon Publix, which was packed, by the way. As long as they were occupied with banging grocery carts through the beer aisle, they’d not give much thought to the new Old Seven Mile Bridge.
Tuesday was my monthly meeting of the Monroe County Comprehensive Land Plan Authority Advisory Committee (say that three times fast…. Sidebar: I chair the committee that makes recommendations to the county’s land authority and county commission on land purchases for environmental conservation and affordable housing. Each board member gets $100 a month; the same since 1986.) Ranger Ed wasn’t working at Fort Zach and he said he’d drive. The Cat 5s care not a whit why we leave as long as the food bowl isn’t empty.
So, like I said earlier, Tuesday was the perfect day for a second try. After my meeting, we turned right, passed the turtle hospital and the 7 Mile Grill and headed up the grade toward the Seven Mile Bridge. Even from grade bottom, the lot looked full. At least there wasn’t a traffic jam and long lines the way it was when we tried the first time in January 2022.
January 2022 | Traffic jams at the new Old Seven Mile Bridge
That was a mess, for sure. There are two lanes of traffic (in and out) and one lane of parking, which isn’t obvious until you’re already committed. Because there’s no exit, and if the 24 or so spots are filled, your only way out is to execute a three-point (or five, depending on how many other lost souls just did the same thing) and turn around the way you came in. Let’s just say someone bollixed up the plans and forgot to include parking for this $77 million public venture in historic preservation.
This time we found a place, one of six open slots, re-tied the sneakers and got to walking. It’s about a mile to the end at Pigeon Key and, obviously, a mile back. We settled for about half way because the clouds were lowering and the thunderheads rising off to the west. Walking in the Florida Keys rain is rarely unpleasant but I wasn’t in the mood to ride back to Key West soaked through.
Was it worth the six months of waiting? Sure, with some caveats. It’s worth doing the bridge:
- As long as you’re headed that way anyway. Given the Hunger Games you’ll play to find parking, you’ll not want to pack up the car, the kids, the house guests, the bikes and the cooler for an excursion.
- As long as it’s free. Well, free of admission charges. Taxpayers in Marathon, in the county and in the state are footing the bill, so it’s not really free. But I wouldn’t pay an admission fee.
- As long as you understand that other than the vistas, which are lovely, the new Old Seven Mile Bridge is pretty much a ribbon of something akin to asphalt with water if you look down. One gets a better view roaring across the new bridge in a car. The Sparta-Elroy old-railroad/walking/riding trail in Wisconsin is prettier and that’s coming from an “I prefer water” girl. And, that surface is slick in the rain. Especially if your footwear isn’t anti-slip and you happen to step on the yellow and white traffic lines. Kinda like what they call black ice up north.
- As long as you wear noise-canceling ear buds, perhaps with some soothing tunes. Or, if you’re fortunate to use hearing aids, you can just turn ’em off. Why? Because, hands down, that’s one of the noisiest walks you’ll ever take. There’s nothing Zen about the new Old Seven Mile Bridge. The wind, the power boats below and the jaw-dropping, ear-popping traffic ripping across the new bridge at 65 MPH just a few feet (so to speak) away combine for one high-decibel walk.
Still, we did it. And, yeah, I’d do it again.